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The Sensible Home

Two Approaches for Squeak-Free Floors

November 26, 2000|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: We are adding a room on to our house and we do not want squeaky floors, which we have in the rest of the house. Is engineered lumber a good choice for efficiency too, and how can we stop existing squeaks?

Answer: You cannot beat engineered lumber for a quality house or room addition. If your existing house had been built with it, you would not have a single squeaky floor year-round. The stability of engineered lumber also makes a house energy efficient by minimizing settling and air infiltration.

First, take care of the existing squeaky floors. Squeaks are often caused by the sub-flooring's not being securely attached to the floor joists. This is often more noticeable in the winter, when dryness causes the wood to shrink.

There are several effective "stop-squeak" kits that take only several minutes to install. All of them are designed to tighten the sub-flooring to the joists below. Some kits can be used through the carpeting from above.

Inspect your floor to find where the squeaky problem areas are. If they are over a basement or crawl space with an unfinished ceiling, your job is simple. Have someone walk on the squeaky area and place your hand on a joist and adjacent sub-flooring from below. You will feel any movement.

One kit design uses a small aluminum block with two screw holes in it. It is placed against the joist and the sub-flooring and then screwed into both. This draws them tightly together to stop the squeak. It is even supplied with two different diameter holes and screws to make it "idiot-proof."

Another under-floor design attaches to the sub-flooring by an anchor plate with a screw hanging down. A bracket is attached to the joist. As a nut is tightened on the screw, the joist and sub-flooring are drawn together.

If you do not have access beneath the floor, select a kit that installs from above without damaging the carpet. A small alignment tool drives a screw through the carpet and sub-flooring into the joist. Using the gripper slot on the tool, you snap off the special screw flush with the flooring.

Among types of engineered lumber for squeak-free support are I-joists, laminated veneer lumber and glulams. These use many thin plies of lumber, bonded together, to create strong and stable support beams. Premium-grade glulams are also often used as decorative exposed beams.

Wood I-joists are ideal for floors and ceilings. These use a narrow vertical web between two strong laminated veneer flanges. For a given size, I-joists are several times stronger than dimensional lumber. Their strength allows for openness and few supporting walls, ideal for passive solar heating.

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Write for (or instantly download at http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 962, a buyer's guide of 12 manufacturers of do-it-yourself stop-squeak kits and engineered lumber showing installation instructions, specifications, sizes, features and prices. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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